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Sony Bows 12 Model CableCARD TV Line

East Rutherford, N.J. – Looking to tap into ‘the emergence of cable opportunities at retail,’ Sony Home Products Division senior VP Tim Baxter unveiled one of the industry’s most expansive lines of fully integrated/CableCARD-enabled digital television sets at its annual East Coast line review for the media, here.

Sony also added products to its SACD, DVD Handycam and VAIO notebook lines. (Please see the links to these stories below.)

Sony unveiled 12 models of HDTV sets that incorporate ATSC/NTSC and QAM tuners to receive over-the-air analog and digital TV broadcasts and in-the-clear digital cable channels. They also add new CableCARD uni-directional cable TV plug-and-play capability to tune basic and scrambled premium digital channels without the need for a separate set-top box.

In addition, Sony unveiled two HD-capable digital cable set-top boxes with built-in personal video recording capability and CableCARD service access.

All of Sony’s CableCARD products include the new DVI-based High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) with HDCP content protection. The uncompressed digital interface delivers broad-bandwidth video and multi-channel digital audio signals.

The new DTV television receivers include four direct-view sets, all featuring FD Trinitron WEGA picture tubes; six Grand Wega LCD-based rear projection sets; and a pair of 16:9 CRT-based rear projection sets.

Sony significantly expanded its integrated Grand Wega LCD rear projection TV assortment by adding two new series – WF and the XS – which will join the entry-level WE and high-end XBR series.

All models are slated to ship in September and will offer 16:9 widescreen aspect ratios, and Sony’s ‘LCD Optical Engine’ with the ‘WEGA Engine’ package of video processing circuitry that is said to improve image sharpness and color accuracy.

New WE models include the 42W-inch KDF-42WE655, which carries a $2,800 suggested retail, and the 50W-inch KDF-50WE655 ($3,000).

The WF models include the 55W-inch KDF-55WF655 ($3,700), and the 60W-inch KDF-60WF655 ($4,000).

The two XS series models include the 55W-inch KDF-55XS955 ($4,000) and the 60W-inch KDF-60XS955 ($4,400).

New integrated rear-projection CRT models include the 51W-inch KDP-51WS655 ($2,100 suggested) and the 57W-inch KDP-51WS655 ($2,400). Both ship in September and will include a WEGA Engine, including proprietary Direct Digital, Digital Reality Creation MultiFunction and Multi-Image Driver (MID-X) circuitry.

The FD Trinitron WEGA sets include two 34W-inch widescreen models including the KD-34XBR960, which will ship in June at $2,200 suggested, and the KD-34SX955, which will ship in August at $2,000.

Other direct view models include the 36-inch 4:3 KD-36SX955, which ships in October at a $1,900 suggested retail, and the 30W-inch 16:9 KD-30SX955, which ships in August at a $1,400 suggested retail.

Sony’s new XS series and XBR series direct-view WEGA models use SuperFine Pitch CRT technology for enhanced sharpness and Sony’s ‘WEGA Engine’ package of video processing circuitry, which is said to improve the ‘corner-to-corner accuracy’ of color and detail.

Sony representatives had no news about rear-projection sets based on the company’s SXRD (LCoS) micro-device system that were rumored to be coming to market this year.

Sony also announced two additions to its HDTV-capable digital cable box family, based on CableCARD plug-and-play and Sony Passage integrated decryption technology. Both boxes feature built-in hard drives for standard- and high-definition video recording and HDMI/HDCP digital connectors. Also included are ATSC tuners for reception of over-the-air digital, NTSC tuners for analog terrestrial reception and Gemstar-based integrated program guides.

DHD HDD100 includes a 120GB hard disk drive that can store up to 120 hours of standard-definition programming at a time, or 12 hours of high-definition content. It will be available in the fall at a $700 suggested retail.

The DHD-HDD200 model will include a 250GB hard drive that will store up to 200 hours of standard-definition programming or 25 hours of high-definition programming. It will be available in the fall at an $800 suggested retail.

‘Our plan is to market [the cable TV PVR boxes] through retail,’ said Baxter. ‘This will give the consumer the opportunity to purchase the set-top box. We think the value proposition is as much the HD hard-drive storage capability as the cable compatibility,’

Sony also unveiled a number of HDTV monitors in both flat-panel and FD Trinitron WEGA lines.

New flat-panel models included the KE-42M1 42W-inch 480p EDTV that will ship in June at a $5,000 suggested retail. The KLV-32M1 is a 32W-inch 1366-by 768-pixel high-definition widescreen LCD TV that will carry a $4,500 suggested retail and the KLV-23M1 is a 1366 by 768-pixel high-definition 23W-inch widescreen LCD TV that will carry a $2,300 suggested retail.

All feature Large Scale Integrated (LSI) circuitry that improves response rates in LCD models and improves contrast performance in plasma panels. Also featured are NTSC tuners, Direct Digital II, DRC and CineMotion reverse 3:2 pull-down circuitry, component video inputs and HDMI/HDCP digital inputs.

New Hi-Scan series FD Trinitron WEGA HDTV monitors feature a solid silver tone with rounded corner cabinetry. This year’s line is highlighted by the company’s first 27-inch Hi-Scan model – the KV-27HS420 ($749). The HS series will also include the 30W-inch widescreen KV-30HS420 ($999), the 32-inch 4:3 KV-32HS420 ($999), 34W-inch 16:9 KV-34HS420 and the KV-36HS420.

All Hi-Scan models include dual component video inputs and HDMI/HCDP interfaces.

Sony will offer an FS series in the 32- and 36-inch 4:3 screen sizes, featuring two-tone cosmetics and Memory Stick capability.

Sony also showed a new 34W-inch XBR HDTV monitor in the KD-34XBR960, which has been reduced to $2,199 from last year’s $2,500 model. It sill ship in June.

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